Africa has better tech than NYC

One of the most surprising things to me when moving to NYC was how often I would NEED CASH.  It seems, anecdotally, that most restaurants and bars in the village are CASH ONLY (also most cabs prefer you pay in cash, and can be real dicks if you try to pay with a card even though legally required to accept them)

Personally I would rather not carry cash for security reasons, as well as convenience reasons and it seems like the rest of the world is headed in that direction (I remember when it was a big deal that McDonald’s started accepting credit cards).

The other day I heard a story on Marketplace about how no one in Africa uses cash anymore, instead they all do mobile to mobile payments.

NYC has always seemed a little techno-phobic to me (also obsessed with OLD things: antiques, old apartments, etc.) and I think this explains why many businesses here don’t accept mobile (or even credit card) payments just as much as the additional overhead cost (not to mention that you can better hide cash transactions from the tax man)

But now I’m just embarrassed that Africa seems to have better payment and p2p transfer technology than NYC in the country that invented the mobile phone.

Must See Tech Talks

I was super happy when this link was passed around the office and I had, in fact seen the majority of these talks.  They are almost exactly the same list I would have created so definitely check it out

The Fun ones are particularly hilarious!

I would include any talk by Jeff Hawkins on machine intelligence if you’re interested in that topic such as this one

I actually went to the Numenta Hackathon last month and will have a blog post/podcast about that hopefully soon.  It was awesome. Enjoy!

Announcing MockingJay


A crazy simple python web server and javascript chat client that enables group chat over the LAN via a browser. Intended for use when security policies or politics or whatever get in the way of using IRC or Hipchat and such. Also intended to only be used on a Local Area Network (LAN) due to the lack of security features.

Basically I want to use Hipchat at work, but due to information security policies we can’t use external services. Sad panda.  So I wrote this.. extremely easy to install, no database required No Redis install (looking at you Hubot).  But with great features for programmers:


  • Syntax highlighted and formatted code
  • Easy sharing of images and files via drag and drop (screen shots, memes, reaction gifs)
  • Coming soon: plugin architecture for even easier extension




STEM Shortage

tl;dr There’s no shortage of engineers in this country.

All my life I have heard about the incredible shortage of engineers in the United States. There’s just far too much demand for engineering talent, and our schools are simply not producing anywhere near the number of graduates we need to fill these positions.

Heck, I chose engineering in large part because of this shortage. I thought if I could succeed in this industry then I would have a job guaranteed for life. Although it does help that building stuff is actually really cool. 🙂

Back in April of thisyear, a study was released from the Economic Policy Institute which has shed some light on this story:

from the paper:

  • The flow of U.S. students (citizens and permanent residents) into STEM fields has been strong over the past decade, and the number of U.S. graduates with STEM majors appears to be responsive to changes in employment levels and wages.
  • For every two students that U.S. colleges graduate with STEM degrees, only one is hired into a STEM job.
  • In computer and information science and in engineering, U.S. colleges graduate 50 percent more students than are hired into those fields each year; of the computer science graduates not entering the IT workforce, 32 percent say it is because IT jobs are unavailable, and 53 percent say they found better job opportunities outside of IT occupations. These responses suggest that the supply of graduates is substantially larger than the demand for them in industry.

Notice those last two bullets? Basically we are graduating about 2x as many engineers as can find jobs, and the second bullet says that it’s not because the kids aren’t good enough at engineering (a common complaint from employers) but rather they were offered better opportunities in other fields.

Basically I have been scratching my head since I learned about economics with this simple question. “If there is a shortage of engineers, why are they not the most highly paid workers in an organization?”

I would have thought the laws of supply and demand would bear out salaries that were higher than lawyers (of which there seems to be no shortage) or even possibly CEOs, which based on compensation you would think we have a major shortage of in this country. We should be begging Congress to allow highly skilled CEOs from other countries to come in on H1B Visas in order to help us compete as a nation.

Now I realize the compensation is potentially more complicated than this, but it’s always bugged me.

The reality is this: There is NO lack of engineering talent in the United States. There is only a lack of cheap talent. When CEOs stand in front of Congress and decry how they can’t possibly fill their engineering positions, what they’re really saying is “we can’t fill our engineering positions at the price we’re willing to pay”.

When H1B Visa workers come to the United States, they are basically tied to the employer who brought them here. Because of the rules, they aren’t free to jump ship if that employer treats them badly, or if another employer offers them a better opportunity. Although by law H1B Visa candidates have to be paid comparable wages to non-H1B candidates, their inability to go after better opportunities stagnates their wages which in turn winds up stagnating the wages of non-H1B candidates at large corporations like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, etc.

What I want is for the H1B program to be available to more people with less restrictions on employment.

Extroverted Developer #20

This week Ben and I just chit chat about some goings on around NYC in technology. I kinda talk a lot this episode.

Show Notes



Extroverted Developer #19 – Brian Guthrie

This week Ben and I talk with Thoughtworks developer Brian Guthrie about learning computer science, agile development and Test Driven Development.

Show Notes



Extroverted Developer #18 – Gayle Laakmann McDowell

This week Ben and I talk with Author, Entrepreneur and owner of, former Google hiring committee member Gayle Laakmann McDowell about her two books: Cracking the Coding Interview and The Google Resume about how to get a job at the big tech companies

Show Notes

  • Interview preparation for Software Engineers looking to get into Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc.
  • How do technical interviews work at the large tech companies?
  • Resume tips for the professional programmer!
  • On MBAs
  • The Seattle Anti-Freeze



Extroverted Developer #17 – 2TonStudios

This week Ben and I talk with indy game developer 2TonStudios about their new iOS game: Ninjaboy

Show Notes

  • Why program video games?
  • Performance and how video games are the indy 500 of programming
  • Carmack’s Keynote
  • Optimizing the challenge curve.
  • Why choose Unity?
  • Tried MonoTouch and MonoGame for the initial port from Windows Phone 7
  • How’s the $0.99 price point working? (no longer first marketing, we took too long to get the show out)
  • How much does marketing play a role?
  • Why is the price point so low for iOS games, when DS games are ~$30?
  • Can’t pay for updates? Use In App Purchases
  • How should people start? Should they try and get into digipen?

So go download it!



Extroverted Developer #16 – Chris Smith

This week Ben and I get a chance to geek out with Chris Smith, author of Programming F#, about the recently completed second edition. Chris is a former SDET on the Microsoft F# team, and currently works for Google on developer tools.

Show Notes

  • Lots of stuff about F#
  • History of functional programming
  • What are monads?
  • What are you doing at the Google?
  • Google closure compiler *terrible name, has nothing to do with ‘Closure’ on the JVM